Our Global Context

Wednesday 20 September 2017

At the heart of the IB is a mission to create a better and more peaceful world. The centrality of this theme permeates everything the IB does and it is represented in all IB diagrammes by the importance it gives to the global context in which learning takes place.

So how are we preparing our students to thrive in a world of global interconnectedness? To what extent is our teaching and their learning narrowly local, and if so, what needs to change?

We all know that creating a context for learning is critically important in order to make learning meaningful. It provides the 'why' for learning. The IB states that our teaching and learning should take place within a global context.This is especially explicit in the IB MYP where they say that the teaching and learning should take place in global contexts so that "students develop an understanding of their common humanity and shared guarianship of the planet" and they do this through developmentally appropriate explorations of six themes. In the Diploma Programme one of the approaches to teaching is that it is developed in local and global contexts.

I have just returned from Bangkok where I was facilitating one of the new IB suite of workshops on Living and Learning Globally. Preparing for and facilitating the workshop has sharpened my thinking around the extent to which we are preparing our students to thrive in the world of the future or of our past.

In this blog I highlight some of the key issues I have been thinking around and signpost a wealth of resources for you to explore further.

WHY is it important to focus on our global context?

Global issues are our issues - they cannot be ignored: The context in which education now occurs has been re-shaped by globalization. The world is now integrated into one extensive system, in which events happening on the other side of the world impact us in our locality. Global problems are our problems and we need to solve them simultaneously and synchronously at all levels.

We increasingly live and work in globally diverse communities - we need to learn how to thive in them. Globalization has brought about a new context in which boundaries of nationhood, geography and identity are far more fluid as we all become more and more exposed to diversity and complexity.

What we teach and learn has to change to be relevant: Information and communication technologies have transformed how knowledge is produced and exchanged. At the click of a button our students have access to the whole world of knowledge. The traditional links between knowledge and culture is also changing with a greater recognition that knowledge is no longer restricted to specific cultures but, instead, is mediated by cultures. We need a curriculum approach that seeks to provide students with skills of inquiry and analysis rather than a set of facts about globalization.

A number of pages on this website provide stand-alone 1 hour workshops to use with staff on these important themes:

HOW do we prepare students to live and learn globally?

One thing that became increasingly clear to me as we worked together in the workshop is that the most important thing is to have a clear idea of what it means to be a global citizen. It is not simply a matter of learning about global issues. It is about thinking, feeling, acting and making decisions as a global citizen. Living and learning globally is not about educating students how to become global citizens as much as it is about awakening an awareness that they are already global citizens. Elsewhere on this website we explore a definition of global citizenship which is about developing our thinking, feelings, awareness and decision-making capacities (see Global Citizen - what does it mean?). We also inquire into the competencies of a global citizen (see Global Competencies).

In ‘New Learning: A Charter for Change in Education’ educational researchers at the University of Illinois, itemise 10 actions for change, one of which is ‘Educate for Global and Local Citizenship’. The whole Charter is worth reading, but in this context it is definitely worth looking at what they say about Global and Local Citizenship. Why not use the Think Piece protocol to read this article together. In it they recommend the following four actions:

  • Internationalize Curriculum and Pedagogy: They recommend the Live Local Learn Global Initiative which promotes global studies that balance ‘area studies’ with general skills (e.g. inter-cultural communication, global rights, international business, and interpreting and negotiating differences). Curriculum content should help students develop an understanding of the global nature of economic, political and cultural exchange. Internationalization of curriculum should incorporate a range of values that include openness, tolerance and cosmopolitanism. It should demand culturally inclusive behavior, designed to ensure that cultural differences are heard and explored, that curriculum is a product of the determination to learn from other cultures and that there are a wide variety of factors that affect cultural change.
  • Build Global Studies as a Discipline Area in pre-service teacher education and then by creating a network of Global Studies Lighthouse Schools to produce an ever-enlarging pool of globally informed citizens throughout the nation. Such schools would focus on less commonly taught languages, a deep knowledge of at least one non-Western culture, and the institution of a problems-based approach to global issues throughout the curriculum.
  • Create Global Learning Networks which will support joint online curriculum planning and teaching between teachers in classrooms in different parts of the world; sister classrooms; global buddies; and more extensive student exchange programs.
  • Expand Efforts to Develop International Education through a World Learn America Program. They argue that international education creates long term benefits in the form of ongoing, cross-border professional or business relationships and multiplier effects.

IB Workshops

This new series of workshops, entitled 'What is an IB Education?', challenges us to explore the question “What is an IB education?”. Participants engage in provocative learning experiences around challenging ideas central to the IB’s mission to make the world a better place through education. These workshops are appropriate for all educators at any point in the journey as life-long learners.

The Living and Learning Globally wokshop inquires into how we can build school communities that develop the knowledge and competencies that are essential for living and learning in a globally connected world. Living and Learning Globally is also about sharing a commitment to address humanity’s greatest challenges in the classroom and beyond. In the workshop we inquired into:

  • the key concepts for the design and implementation of learning engagements that support international mindedness;
  • how global issues and contexts expand and enhance perspectives and engage students in meaningful ways;
  • how we embed global contexts into the written, taught and learned curriculum to provide opportunities for students to participate in a complex, dynamic and diverse society that is connected due to greater mobility and technology.

Tags: Living and Learning Globally, Global Citizen, Global Competence, nternational Mindedness


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